Monday, May 20, 2024

OPINION: CARRIE AND JERRY SCHEID — Giving freedom a bad name?

| May 13, 2020 1:00 AM

Jerry: Looks like you’ve added to the uproar over the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF.)

Carrie: I filed an IRS complaint because they’ve been organizing illegal rallies and encouraging people to disobey the governor’s “Stay-Home” order. IRS rules don’t allow charitable nonprofits to engage in or promote illegal activities.

Jerry: Some claim it’s because you don’t like their politics.

Carrie: I respect their right to be a conservative voice in Idaho. I also respect the right of people to engage in civil disobedience, if they are willing to accept the consequences. And the IRS rules are very clear: 501 c 3 charitable organizations cannot engage in or promote illegal activities.

Jerry: Why would they care about keeping their 501 c 3 tax exempt status?

Carrie: Because it allows them to shield their donors’ identities and gives them a tax deduction.

Jerry: What did the IFF say when you notified them about the IRS rules?

Carrie: After some prodding, they responded “we will check back (with you) in six months when nothing has come of it.”

Jerry: If I was on the board of a nonprofit knowingly involved in illegal activities, I’d want to stop it ASAP. What are their board members doing about this? After all, they are always singing the IFF’s praises.

Carrie: No kidding. Here’s the rest of my IRS complaint. The IFF engages in excessive lobbying, acting more like a political influence machine than a charity.

Jerry: How’s that?

Carrie: Let’s start with their Board of Directors. Three of their seven board members are Republican Party leaders: IFF Chairman Brent Regan is Chair of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee, Bryan Smith is 2nd Vice Chair of the Idaho State Republican Party and Doyle Beck is Bonneville County Republican District 30 Legislative Chair.

Jerry: A coincidence?

Carrie: Let’s move onto Wayne Hoffman, the IFF president. Their website describes him “as one of Idaho’s most influential figures in politics.”

Jerry: OK, that sounds political.

Carrie: In my 40-plus years in the nonprofit sector, I have never heard a charity make that claim…until now. But here’s how they really play the political game: the IFF “freedom index.”

Jerry: What’s a freedom index?

Carrie: It’s their scorecard which rates how closely a legislator votes the IFF’s interests. Some call it an “obedience score.” It’s an incredibly effective strategy for influencing our legislators. I’d call it lobbying on steroids!

Jerry: I went onto their website but couldn’t find a clear explanation of how the index works. It reminds me when I used to ask my mother “Why?” and she would say “Because I told you so…that’s why!”

Carrie: What makes this so political is they use their good index rating as a de facto endorsement of a legislator. And the threat of a bad one to intimidate those who don’t toe the line.

Jerry: To sum up, remember what Spokesman-Review columnist Shawn Vestal said about the Idaho Freedom Foundation: “They give liberty a bad name.”

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Jerry is a retired farmer/rancher and native Idahoan. Carrie is a retired nonprofit administrator.